The rack power distribution unit (PDU) market will not see a dramatic shift toward use of the Open Compute Project product specifications, but the idea of customizing data center infrastructure products to achieve maximum efficiency may trickle down into the rack PDU market, according to IHS. In the 2013 edition of The World Market for Rack Power Distribution Units, IHS reports that 15% of rack PDU revenues in 2012 can be attributed to the sale of customized products and expects that number to increase in 2013.

The Open Compute Project, launched by a group of Facebook engineers in 2011, makes some radical changes to traditional data center infrastructure. It was started in an effort to find the most efficient and economical way to build out data centers and grow computing infrastructure. Underlying this main goal is the idea that anything created through the project is “open source”, meaning all designs are publically available, with the hopes of creating a platform for open dialogue and innovation surrounding this topic. The initial result of the project was Facebook’s Prineville, OR data center, which includes custom-designed servers, racks, power supplies, and battery systems, all developed to gain the highest efficiencies in computing, space usage, and energy usage.

IHS found that the Open Compute Project and its PDU designs do not currently pose a threat to the traditional rack PDU market. Instead of having a direct effect on the rack PDU market, IHS analyst Sarah McElroy states, “The Open Compute Project is something that is peripheral to the rack PDU industry that may prompt more customers to request some level of customization in PDU products which will in turn motivate suppliers to offer more customization.”

The Open Compute Project’s model (if adopted by companies besides Facebook) will be limited to a small portion of the market because it is based on customization of all things in order to create the ideal solution for a company’s needs. The majority of the market does not have the resources, funds, or need to custom design all data center equipment. That being said, it is possible that some of the concepts developed by the Open Compute Project may trickle down into mainstream market offerings. For example, the Prineville data center delivers 480V AC three-phase power directly to the rack, meaning the PDUs are designed specifically for this purpose. This is made possible by the Open Compute Project’s custom-designed non-standard servers and, therefore, would be difficult for the rest of the market to adopt. What could happen, however, is that the general market could start requesting more customized rack PDU options.

According to McElroy, “Customization is already playing an increasingly important role in the rack PDU industry.” For some rack PDU suppliers, customized product sales account for over 50% of rack PDU revenues. These types of suppliers have typically based their business models on being able to respond to requests for customization quickly and with competitive pricing, which often takes the form of a build-to-order business model versus ship-to-order.

McElroy concludes, “There are a number of factors that have led to the increase in customization in the rack PDU market, and it seems that models like the Open Compute Project will contribute to this trend going forward.”

IHS regularly analyzes all aspects of the data center infrastructure market. The World Market for Rack Power Distribution Units - 2013 Edition provides in-depth analysis across three world regions: the Americas, EMEA, and Asia. Unit shipments, average unit prices and revenues are estimated for 2012 and forecast through 2017. The market is segmented by sub-region, product type, power rating, input phase, form factor, vertical market, and sales channel. Supplier market share estimates for 2012, and an analysis of the competitive environment, are also provided. Additionally, IHS analyzes the market for rack power distribution units quarterly in the company’s free-to-participants “Rack PDU Tracker,” which complements the annual report.